This story is by Jennifer Share and was part of our 2017 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the Spring Writing Contest stories here.
“Now you’re a good boy aren’t you? I am sure you have never lied.” The old man’s grin slowly cracked through his wrinkles, making them fold heavily around his cheeks.
“Yeah I am, I have never, ever told one!”the boy bragged, though he knew this was a lie in itself.
The man let out a slight chuckle.
“Your parents will be all right with you owning such an..unusual creature won’t they?”
The boy hesitated.
“Absolutely!” His teeth ground together as the words escaped from his lips. This also wasn’t true, but he couldn’t help it. Lying came naturally.
Shaking, the man unclasped his frail hands where a little sphere of ink sat. Two beady white eyes sleepily emerged. The ink yawned, gazing up at it’s new owner.
“Its name is Kumo,” the man began, only to be interrupted by high squeals of excitement from the ink creature.
The man’s green eyes clouded over as he glanced back at the boy.
Cursing under his breath he began to crush little Kumo, tightening his fist with all the strength he could muster. It screamed, shouting “Kumo Kumo Kumo!” with all its might.
“Stop!” the boy yelled. “You will kill it!” Panic swept through his voice making it crack.
“My dear boy I wish it was that easy.” The man slowly loosened his grip; allowing it to take form once more. Seizing the boy’s hoodie, the man sputtered, “Are you sure you want this..thing? It’s..”
“Of course I want it!” he snapped. What was the man thinking? He would be the envy of everyone!
“Very well,” the man choked, “only if you are sure.” Reluctantly the man placed Kumo into the boy’s small hands, his tears splashing heavily onto Kumo’s surface. Kumo whimpered with each drop.
Finally, the boy had it. “Thanks mister!” he shouted, rushing back home as fast as his blue trainers would carry him.
WAIT. His shoes came to to an abrupt halt. What do I tell my parents? The boy plunked himself on the pavement. He played various excuses and scenarios through his thoughts, only to have each one hit a dead end.
“How do I get out of this mess?” he huffed. Carefully he pulled little Kumo out of the depths of his pocket. It stared at the boy from between the boy’s fingers, and began to purr.
He grinned, making the freckles dance over his nose. “Oh I will think of something,” he whispered, shoving Kumo back into his pocket, “I always do.”
“Jimmy,” came a voice as he slammed the front door, “how was school?” his mum queried, squeezing him tight.
“Mum I can’t breathe!” Jimmy struggled, only to realise Kumo was happily perching on her shoulder. Panicking he tried to grab it, only for Kumo to fall on top of his head.
“Oh no,” he gulped “Oh this? Well…” Jimmy’s mind scrambled for a plausible explanation until he noticed that his mother was looking directly at him, but appeared unable to see Kumo.
“What’s the matter?”
“Oh nothing, just really tired. Yeah that’s it! We had a quiz today,” Jimmy rubbed his eyes.
“I’m just going to have a rest.”Before she could reply, Jimmy made a dash for his room, swerving up the stairs and slamming the door shut.
Jimmy flopped on the bed, giving a sigh of relief.
Crawling up his jacket, Kumo positioned itself in front of his nose, chirping while doing so.
“Well,” Jimmy began to relax, “My parents can’t actually see you, can they?”
Kumo slowly nodded giving off a high pitched giggle.
“Sheesh and here I was making excuses! Wish the old man told me that when he gave you to me,” Jimmy huffed.
However, a question niggled at his brain. How come the old man could see it?
“Well it does not matter I guess, since I have you now!”
The boy carefully ran his finger over Kumo’s inky surface. A call for dinner made Jimmy jump up.
“I will be right back okay?” He reassured. “You stay here!”
That evening Jimmy told his parents the events of the day. However none of it was the truth.
As the months dragged by Jimmy’s lying persisted, making Kumo slowly grow, but Jimmy hardly noticed. One day Jimmy woke with an almighty pain sweeping through his body. Screaming he tried to jerk himself upright, only to find a heavy pressure on his back. Gasping for air, he fumbled for the light switch. Jimmy froze. Strings of ink fed through his body, pulsating and encircling his neck. Others, encased in spines, threaded through his legs like needles, and pierced deep within his chest. The pain engulfed him again, making him fall to the floor.
As he edged his eyes towards the mirror, the colour left his skin as he gazed at the monstrosity that was once a little creature called Kumo.
Multiple new heads gazed back at him as the monster kept morphing, the ink going everywhere. Spider-like legs clung onto Jimmy’s torso, with hordes of eyes covering each one. One of the heads
quietly whispered in his ear.
“First lie,” Kumo cackled, with the others gleefully agreeing.
“W-what?” Jimmy struggled through the tears.
“First lie,” the head repeated.
Jimmy clicked.“Y-you mean what I told my mum?”
Every head chuckled in unison. Struggling under Kumo’s weight, Jimmy managed to get up onto his knees. Painfully, he made his way to his feet. Kumo was heavy and not at all like it used to be.
“Mum!” Jimmy’s voice rang out through the house.
“Help! Dad? Get this thing off of me!”
Struggling, he lurched out of the doorway and finding the banister, slowly made his way towards the other bedroom. Pushing through the door, Jimmy stumbled to their bed.
“Mum, Dad-help!” Nothing. Frantically, Jimmy shook his mum’s shoulder.
“Mum?” Jimmy leaned over. Her eyes were glassy and open wide, and her mouth held agape, almost unhinged from her jaw.
Kumo’s black ink had enveloped her, holding her hostage.
The ink then slithered down her throat, straining its way inside, causing her body to shake violently in protest.
Jimmy stumbled backwards.
“Why are you doing this to them?” Jimmy choked.
“Why, surely you know that your lies affect others,” Kumo chuckled.
Panicking, Jimmy dashed for the door.
The ink followed, blackening the walls and floor, leaving absolute darkness in its wake. Voices and growls broke the silence making a deafening chorus.
Jimmy burst out of the front door. Panting, he faced it. Nothing. The ink was gone.
“So,” Kumo began, leaning over Jimmy’s shoulders, forcing his back to buckle.
“I guess you want me gone, they always do.”
Jimmy did not respond.
“Don’t you want to carry me forever? Pity, they all love the thought of me, relish me, even yearn after me- and yet once they have me they never, ever keep me.”
Anger flooded Jimmy’s body. “What did you do to my parents? Give them back!”
“First, you must understand I feed off of lies and hatred,” it began,“crushing your life line and your loved ones along with it.”
A hard lump formed in Jimmy’s throat, his heart almost bursting out of his chest.
“P-prove it,” Jimmy glared, only to be told to ‘look down.’ Jimmy’s hands had become spotted and withered, with paper like skin merely covering the bone.
“You are not a boy any more,” Kumo hissed “but an old man.”
It leaned further over Jimmy’s shoulders, making his back crack, cowering from the weight.
Regret hit him hard. Why did I take this thing? What can I do?
“You can not destroy me, nor kill me,” Kumo shrugged, “but..” Jimmy’s ears pricked up.
Is there really a solution to all of this?
“How badly do you need them back?” Kumo sniggered. “Will you do anything?”
“Absolutely,” sweat trickled down his face. “I will.”
“Very well,” Kumo smiled whispering in his ear,“Pass me on.”
The other heads chanted in agreement.
“What? What do you mean?”
“Give me to someone else. Find another liar. That is what the one before you accomplished.”
The boy’s eyes grew wide.
“You mean-” the realization of what the old man truly was dawned on him.
“That’s why he could see you, isn’t it.”
The heads cackled in excitement as the truth swarmed out.
“Now you need to do the same. A liar will become apparent from the glow he or she gives off.”
Kumo shifted it’s weight, allowing Jimmy to stand.
“Now go,” Kumo instructed. “Find me another.”
Jimmy obeyed, merging with the darkness of the night. Searching. Waiting. It came apparent that each person had their own small glow, and the brighter the red, the more lies told.
However none were bright enough for the creature.
“Keep searching,” it ordered.
As the sun rose, Jimmy dragged himself onto a park bench. All night he wandered.
Nothing. Not one was suitable. Jimmy buried his head in his hands, weeping heavily.
He was still in pain, and every step he took, he could feel the life being drained out of him. Nothing would ever be the same again.
“There!” Kumo gleefully shrieked, perching itself upright for a better look.
A girl, only about six years old had the brightest glow Jimmy had ever seen.
“So, this is how you saw me.” He choked.
Nodding, Kumo whispered, “call to her,” with each head parroting the words.
“O-over here little girl,” Jimmy beckoned, wishing with all his might she would ignore him.
Unfortunately, she didn’t.
“Liars always come,” Kumo grinned. “They are drawn to me.”
Kumo spat black ink into Jimmy’s palm.
“Once you pass on this young version of me, I will disappear,” it declared.
The ink morphed into its original form, chirping and sliding around Jimmy’s fingers.
“Whoa what have you got there?” A little voice queried, her eyes growing wide with enthusiasm.
Jimmy began reciting what Kumo whispered into his ear, slowly realising that these were the same words the last poor boy used on him. Shaking, Jimmy placed the ink gently into her hands.
As she was about to leave, Jimmy grabbed at her dress, and hastily told her, “Do not lie! If you can not help it, pass it on-back to me,”
His voice cracked with the words, “You are so young, promise me you will. I do not mind carrying on this burden.”
Kumo tilted it’s head, curious of his proposal. The girl stared at him.
“Promise?” He persisted.
“Yes,” she replied, only to appear more confused than ever before.
“If and when you need me I will be passing by here, every day from three o’clock. Remember that.” Jimmy fought the tears.
She nodded, thanked him and returning back to her play, cuddled the little Kumo into her side.
Kumo was right. He could not defeat it, but he could make sure that it never tormented another ever again. However, could he really take on the burden again? The truth was, he wasn’t sure, but he could live a relatively normal life until that moment arrived.
He took a deep breath. Slowly, he closed his eyes, and glimpsed over his shoulder. Kumo was gone. Relieved, Jimmy ran back home as fast as he could.
He knew his parents were going to be okay. Everything was going to go back to the way it was. That is, until the girl decides to pass Kumo back. Then he would be ready.